- Ukraine faces a “critical” power situation, an official says
- Three dead in new strikes in Kyiv
- Zelenskyy accuses Russia of attacking civilians
- Moscow says it hits the infrastructure
- New Russian commander admits trouble
Kyiv/MYKOLAIV, Ukraine, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Russia has destroyed nearly a third of Ukraine’s power plants over the past week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday, as Moscow rained more rockets on infrastructure in what is threatening Kyiv and the West a call campaign to intimidate civilians.
Rockets hit power plants in the capital Kyiv, killing three people, as well as in Kharkiv in the east, Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih in the south, and Zhytomyr in the west, causing power outages and the loss of water supplies. A man was killed in his destroyed apartment in Mykolayiv in the south.
“The situation is now critical across the country… The whole country needs to prepare for power, water and heating outages,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, told Ukrainian TV.
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Russia has openly admitted that since early last week it has directed waves of rocket and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in what President Vladimir Putin described as legitimate retaliation for an explosion on a bridge.
Kyiv and the West say the deliberate attack on civilian infrastructure is a war crime, and the attacks aimed at leaving Ukrainians without heat and electricity as winter sets in are Putin’s latest tactic to escalate a war which his forces are losing.
In a rare acknowledgment of the difficulties Russian forces are facing, their new commander Sergei Surovikin on Tuesday described the military situation in Ukraine as “tense”, particularly around the occupied southern city of Kherson.
“The enemy is constantly trying to attack Russian troops’ positions,” he told state news channel Rossiya 24.
The Russian-installed Kherson region chief said some civilians were being evacuated from four cities, citing the risk of an attack by Kiev forces.
In Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, Reuters heard three explosions in the early hours of Tuesday. A missile completely destroyed a wing of a downtown building, leaving a huge crater in its wake. A fire crew pulled the body of a man from the rubble.
Russians “probably take pleasure in it,” said Oleksandr, the owner of a nearby flower shop.
Zelenskyy said Russia continues to try to terrorize and kill Ukrainian civilians.
“Since October 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power plants have been destroyed, leading to massive power outages across the country,” he wrote on Twitter.
Zelenskyy reiterated his refusal to negotiate with Putin, who he says runs a “terrorist state”.
Zelenskyi ruled out negotiations with Putin last month after the Russian leader announced the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces. Putin has also called up hundreds of thousands of reservists and has threatened to use nuclear weapons since mid-September after his forces suffered humiliating battlefield losses.
There was no immediate indication of the total number of people killed in Tuesday’s strikes. A day earlier, Russia had sent swarms of drones to attack infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities, killing at least five people.
Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians, although it has been beating up Ukrainian villages, towns and towns in what was originally dubbed a “military special operation” to disarm its neighbor.
The Russian Defense Ministry reiterated earlier statements that it was conducting high-precision weapon attacks on military targets and energy infrastructure across Ukraine.
Ukraine has accused Russia of using Iranian-made Shahed-136 “kamikaze” drones that approach and detonate their target. Iran denies supplying them, and the Kremlin also denied using them on Tuesday.
However, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Tehran had promised to supply Russia with more drones as well as surface-to-surface missiles, a move sure to infuriate the United States and its allies.
The US State Department said Washington would continue to take “practical, aggressive” steps to make the sale of drones and similar weapons more difficult, and also expressed concern about what it called the deepening of the Russia-Iran alliance.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he would ask Zelenskyy to officially sever diplomatic ties with Iran in protest at the drones.
NATO will deliver air defense systems to Ukraine “in the coming days” to help the country defend itself against drones, said the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
General Surovikin, Moscow’s new supreme commander in Ukraine, has been dubbed “General Armageddon” in the Russian media after serving in Syria and Chechnya, where his forces have reduced cities to rubble in a brutal but effective scorched-earth policy against their enemies and laid ashes.
His appointment was followed on October 10 by the largest wave of rocket attacks on Ukraine since the war began.
Putin described these attacks as revenge for an explosion that damaged Russia’s bridge to Crimea – the peninsula Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack, but has celebrated the destruction of a military target it believes was being used to transport arms and troops.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told BBC radio that Surovikin was pursuing a cruel and senseless strategy which he said was failing in its aim of “breaking the will of the Ukrainian people”.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that the four Ukrainian regions it allegedly annexed are under the protection of its nuclear arsenal.
The statement comes as both NATO and Russia prepare to hold annual military exercises to test the readiness of their nuclear-armed forces. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday two of its Tu-95MS nuclear-capable strategic bombers made a more than 12-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.
Putin has previously said he is ready to use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity”.
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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones; Edited by Philippa Fletcher, Peter Graff and Rosalba O’Brien
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